Sally Connally Hardie: Environmental campaigner and philanthropist

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Scotland has benefited hugely from a number of American ladies, married to Scots, who have not only been generous philanthropists to a range of worthwhile causes but who have brought forthright intelligence and opinions to the life of Scotland. One such was the environmental campaigner and charity patron Sally Connally Hardie. She was on the council of the National Trust for Scotland from 1978 to 1985 (as was I from 1976-81), and she served on its executive from 1985-95. She was one of the first to argue for the Trust's role in maintaining pristine wilderness areas, such as Balmacara, Glencoe and Knoydart. One of her heroes was the Scottish-born conservationist John Muir, a man who was a legend in the United States but hardly known in Britain, who had pioneered the idea of preserving wilderness areas and established the concept of national parks in North America.

Another of Hardie's concerns was the marine environment and its protection. She gave strong support to Labour MPs who argued (ultimately successfully) that the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Bill should be amended to create marine nature reserves. She expended much energy on campaigning for her husband, Donald Hardie, in elections and by-elections, when he was desperately unlucky not to become a Conservative MP, but she was cheerfully broad-minded and looked at issues on their merits, if through transatlantic spectacles.

Hardie was a member of the Court of St Andrews University from 1987-95 and a colleague from that period recalled "she did not always agree with the conventional wisdom of the university authorities, but did fight her corner". Among her victories, one was especially enduring. There was a proposal to close the university department which covered marine sciences; Hardie fiercely opposed it, and won. Without her intervention, St Andrews University would not have its internationally renowned sea mammals research unit.

Sally Connally was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1926. Her great great-grandfather David Connally was one of the first settlers to obtain land in the city, during the presidency of Andrew Jackson. Her great-grandfather, Joseph E Brown, was the governor of Georgia during the climatic events of the American civil war. Her grandfather, Elijah Connally, was a doctor during that war, and his family papers were very moving about that bloodthirsty, family-rending horror.

Connally was educated at the Spence School in New York and Vassar College, whence she came to Scotland to undertake a course at the University of St Andrews. It was there that she met Donald Hardie, and after he had won a Fulbright scholarship to Atlanta, they both returned to marry in Scotland in 1952.

For a period after that she described herself as a camp follower to the Cameron Highlanders in which Donald was doing his national service. Then, in 1956, they bought Chester Hill House in Humbie, East Lothian, where they made a beautiful home and where she lived until she died. Donald was the director of the Institute of Directors, and prominent in public life.

The arts were another recipient of Connally Hardie's benificence. Charles Fraser, in his moving tribute to her at the Humbie church funeral, spoke of her hard work and generosity towards the East Lothian art fund, of which she was the founding chairman.

The Connally family in Atlanta were intimate friends of the famous golfer Bobby Jones, and as a child, Sally played with the Jones children. Fittingly then, until her death, she served as vice president and trustee of the Robert T Jones memorial scholarship fund which annually sends four students from St Andrews to study at Emory University in Atlanta. Without fanfare she gave a great deal of money, often anonymously, to worthwhile causes.

Sally's body was flown across the Atlantic to Atlanta, where she will lie with her father, grandfather and great-grandfather in the family vault.

Sally Patricia Connally, charity campaigner and philanthropist: born Atlanta, Georgia February 1926; married 1952 Donald Hardie (two sons, one daughter); died Hadington, East Lothian 21 September 2010.